the true stories
When I was around five down South, a neighbor took me along rabbit hunting. Our party had a half-dozen wonderful hounds and two men with shotguns. We began walking slowly from the frosty back side of the man's property and within minutes his dogs were onto a hot scent and flushing out bunnies. I was most taken with watching the canines work through the dry fall swamp and it took me some time to be able to spot the erratic, direction changing dash of the rabbits.
After only a few hours we were slowly walking back to the man's yard with a good brace of long ears. The rabbits were all laid out on some clean straw and the dogs were penned up and fed. While the man and his son were busy with this, I examined the rabbits. They were fat, sleek specimens and their fur was a beautiful gray like the bark on a sweet-gum tree.
The man and his son came over and began skinning the catch while I watched. The first thing I noticed was that the expected buckets of blood never materialized. In fact, there was very little. The second thing I noticed was the lack of smell. I have extremely sensitive olfactory equipment and have logged the smells of everything since birth. After opening the carcasses and removing the guts, I had expected an overpowering stench. All one could smell in the cool morning air was the clean smell of the fur and a very faint aroma of cooked grass.
So far, so good. While the men were finishing the process of making them ready for the pot, I was struck by a stray thought. I had participated in a few Easter celebrations in my time and was stuffed full of the Easter Bunny myth. I asked the farmer what exact kind of rabbits these were.
I felt a wave of concern shoot through me, “Hada yoo know 'at one o these uns ain't Pater? Pater Cottontail?”
My voice betrayed my concern and anger at the cavalier attitude of my hosts. The old man rolled his eyes at the pale sky, looked at his son and then back down at me.
“Son, I gar-an-tee yoo 'at none of these uns is Mr. Pater Cottontail.”
His son went through the motions of checking the ears of each head lined up on the ground.
“Welp na, I done checked 'em all, lil' Mak. Yoo kin tale by they ears, unnerstan na, cousin?”
“I'm gess I'm onna fine aout nex Easter, huh? Thank ya'll for takin' me huntin'”
I walked on home not quite sure if I could trust these men. Later, they gave me some squirrel stew to chow on while I waited for Spring. When Easter rolled around, I knew they had been telling the truth and I was much relieved.
My next hunting trip was with my Grandmother at her cabin on the Gulf of Mexico. She had spread some carrots around at night under the house. The buildings there were built up on telephone poles so the floors were about twelve feet off the ground. This allowed for the hurricanes to roll through every season without destroying the furnishings.
The lot was chopped out of thick salt-marsh grass and this is where the rabbits lived. She had seen the signs of their activities and was determined to help me to bag some ingredients for my first gumbo. She woke me up as early as my Grandfather did when we'd go fishing. We got dressed and had a coffee. She had taken two long-handled crab nets out of the shed earlier and armed with these we two crept down the long wooden stairs to the ground. We sat on the bottom step and after our eyes adjusted to the dim light, we saw the culprits! They felt safe and paid us no mind.
They were bigger and darker than Louisiana rabbits and there were four of them. They were munching up the carrots right out in the open. They were only one Texas hop away from safety, however. We tip-toed agonizingly slowly around the car for cover and took positions behind the big creosoted poles.
My Grandma tried first and she bagged one! She giggled like a girl and I swung my net down on another. My blow landed off-center and the small net covered only the hind quarters of my rabbit. Meanwhile, my Grandmother's catch used its powerful legs to buck like a horse til it succeeded in lifting the iron hoop of the net enough to join my candidate in a dash to the salt grass.
In the commotion, the other two were already long gone. Grandma said that they wouldn't likely be back for a few days and maybe we could try again. We laughed til our sides hurt and went inside. We decided to settle on a nice haul of crabs instead as my Grandfather had locked up all the fishing gear, including my own, such being his habit when away at sea. Thus ended my second official hunting trip for land animals and I had yet to put anything in the pot.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.